Embalmer reveals her wild double life
SUSAN Witten is a mortuary embalmer by day and a roller-derby blocker by night.
"I was lost for so many years but I have found my place in the world after discovering two great passions haphazardly," the 48-year-old says.
As an embalmer with White Lady Funerals, the Coomera woman spends her days preparing the departed for their final farewell and ensuring they look their best for loved ones.
But when night falls, Sue likes nothing better than roller skating fast - and hitting people.
"It's the best," she says. "Working in a morgue and playing a full-on contact sport seem like a strange combo but they complement each other more than you know."
When Sue left high school, she had a dream of travelling the world as a hairdresser but after aquiring chronic dermatitis in the salon, she had to throw that passion away.
After many years and several other occupations, she found her career in the funeral sector.
A brief stint as a funeral director's assistant led to embalming in a morgue at Nerang.
Sue now spends her working day putting her hairdressing and make-up skills to good use on the deceased.
"I never ever had contemplated this in my life. I hadn't even seen a dead person before," she said.
"But after spending time embalming and providing care and comfort to families at their most vulnerable time, I haven't looked back.
"I feel like I am making a difference in my community."
In 2012, Sue was introduced to the fast and furious sport of roller derby.
"I heard about the sport from a friend and it sounded amazing," she said.
Sue recalls her first day on the track at Mansfield Stadium at Mt Gravatt as a flop - literally.
"I spent more time on the ground than I did standing up," she laughed.
"But afterwards I went out and bought a pair of rollerskates and couldn't wait to join the team."
Ever since, Sue - known in the sport as Rattlin' Bones - has competed with the Zombees team in the Brisbane-based Sun State League.
She also plays for the league's representative team, Swarm, and has been its MVP and "best blocker" numerous times.
As a blocker, she puts her body on the line every match and over time has suffered a broken nose, two broken ribs, three broken bones in her hand and a few concussions.
Sue said roller derby was a great distraction from the morgue because some days were "quite dark and tragic".
"With roller derby there are so many things to think about that everything else just disappears," she said.
"It also keeps me really fit because the embalming process is a very physical job.
"Often people get a bit of shock when they hear what I do during and after work, but I am blessed where life has taken me and I wouldn't change it for the world."
Originally published as Coast embalmer's wild double life